Being out in the countryside with my dogs gives me time to think. I’ve learnt the pleasure of solitude without being lonely, and that’s a good feeling for me.

Welcome to "Man with two dogs" - the family website for dog owners and dog walkers.

This is my countryside diary which appears each Saturday in the Dundee Courier newspaper.

Early nesters begin

February 21st, 2015

DSC02355THERE’S BEEN a collective sigh of relief, in a manner of speaking, from the countryside at the welcome change in the weather this week.

The morning chorus (it’s early yet for a full-blown dawn chorus) is gathering momentum. It’s certainly not too early for the garden song birds’ thoughts to be turning to romance. Robins, blackbirds, sparrows, chaffinches will be starting to nest from the end of March onwards.

With their emotional diversions you can often get closer to the wild birds than normal. Out with the dogs first thing on Thursday I was greeted by a robin sitting on a gate post, singing his heart out and paying not a blind bit of notice to us.

I got to almost within an arm’s length of him and stood sharing his hopes and dreams of attracting his heart’s desire. I don’t know how long it might have lasted but Inka wouldn’t stand still which was enough to break the spell and the robin flew off.

The mistle thrush is our earliest nester and the hen bird can be sitting on eggs as early as mid February. This being so, I expect to hear their loud, ringing mating song from early in January.

The Border poet, Will Ogilvie, who spent some years in the Australian outback as a drover and horse breaker before returning to his native Kelso, described it in The February Thrush – A gallant more daring / Than all of his peers, / The love he is sharing / Is first of the year’s!

For the past two seasons a throstle, to give it its north-east name, took up post at daybreak on the topmost branch of a tall Wellingtonia, greeting at least one early morning walker and his dogs. But this year I missed him.

I needn’t have worried. Earlier in the week I heard the familiar, powerful, carrying notes flooding from a neighbouring wood. So I know they haven’t deserted us.

It’s time to get back to the favourite walks. I bundled the dogs into the car and drove to Inveriscandye Farm, a mile or so below Edzell, and set off up the bank of the River North Esk.

We disturbed droves of woodpigeons sitting in the trees alongside a field of oilseed rape, digesting their mid-morning feed. When the snow was on the ground that carpet of fresh greenery must have been a magnet for the grey marauders.

To my untrained eye they seemed to have devastated the crop but a knowledgeable farmer told me that so long as the birds don’t eat into the heart of the plants they will likely recover and produce a crop which will be harvested about mid July.

Salmon fishing opened on the North Esk on Monday and I stopped to watch an angler, gripped with salmon fever, waiting for that first heart-stopping drag on the line telling him that a fish may have taken.

Then it was back to the car to take Macbeth for his own walk. He’s got a bit of a spring back in his step but the walks are still punctuated with bellowed encouragement. He’s a devil really – the moment I stop to look back and check how he is managing, he stops too and is ready to turn round and head back to the car!

A request to dicht my boots brought to mind a word that I hadn’t heard for a while and a story – allegedly absolutely true, but you know how apocryphal these stories can be – about an enthusiastic young toothbrush salesman who called on a small rural chemist shop.

Despite his spirited claims for the benefits of his toothbrushes the elderly chemist remained unimpressed. Giving it one last fling the salesman urged the chemist to at least take one sales dispenser and he would see the brushes fly off the counter.

The chemist beckoned him into the back shop and opened a double-doored cupboard filled from top to bottom with toilet rolls. “But my company has nothing to do with toilet paper”, exclaimed the baffled salesman.

“Young man”, growled the old chemist, nodding towards his customers, “if I can’t get them to dicht their arse, I’ll never get them to brush their teeth.”

Written on Saturday, February 21st, 2015 at 10:11 pm for Weekly.